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Who should distribute Charlotte's arts funding? City Council considers its options

A mural on a low wall
Dashiell Coleman
/
WFAE
The "East Side Pride" mural, seen here Sept. 3, 2020, sits at the southwest intersection of Central Avenue and Eastway Drive in Charlotte.

The Charlotte City Council wants to grow the city's arts scene, but still needs to decide who should have the power to divvy up and disburse the city's arts funding in the coming years.

In the past, the city funneled most of its arts funding through the Arts & Science Council, which got to decide which organizations and artists received public dollars, and how much.

That changed in 2021, when the city transferred that power to an 18-member advisory board.


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The board wasn't meant to be a permanent solution however, and council member Ed Driggs said at a Jobs and Economic Development Committee meeting this week the time had come for council to make up its mind on how to move forward.

He suggested keeping the ASC as a grant maker.

"We need to deal with the question of the role of the Arts & Science Council. There is a diversity of opinion. People can respond to this, and it could change," Driggs said.

The city council could also recruit other nonprofits to help disburse the money, or even make the advisory board permanent.

The city provided $22 million in arts funding in fiscal year 2022, including debt service on existing cultural institutions.

Council members hope to reach a consensus by February, when city staff are expected to finalize their "State of Culture Report."

Charlotte's art funding has been in transition in recent years, and the ASC struggled with finances. Uptown’s major companies used to heavily promote the ASC’s annual fundraising campaigns, but over the past several years, many have taken a more hands-off approach.

In 2019, the ASC said it was in a “crisis” due to the decline in workplace giving. That same year, Mecklenburg County asked voters to approve a quarter-cent sales tax increase for the arts, but it was defeated in a referendum.

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Nick de la Canal is a reporter for WFAE covering breaking news, arts and culture, and general assignment stories. His work frequently appears on air and online. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal